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Don't play Mario and Zelda in VR, you'll only make yourself feel sick

I haven't felt nauseous in VR for a long, long time. The last time I felt properly awful was playing Driveclub VR, and before that it was an early Oculus Rift DK1 experience attempting to play Dying Light in virtual reality. But with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey's brand new VR experiences, that awful central headache and head-spinning nausea was almost instant. The first fully-fledged Nintendo VR experiences – outside the brilliant mini-games offered with Nintendo Labo VR that is – are really, really awful. 

A couple of weeks after the launch of Nintendo Labo VR, two free updates dropped for Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, adding virtual reality modes to both games. But honestly, after playing through both of them as much as I was physically able to, I'd advise maybe giving them both a miss. 

Super Mario Odd-yssey

It's particularly interesting because both VR modes do things a little differently. Super Mario Odyssey VR consists of three standalone levels, and a bonus interactive concert, which are all separate from the main game. The levels are set in existing Odyssey kingdoms though – Hat Kingdom, Seaside Kingdom and Luncheon Kingdom – and you're tasked with collecting musical instruments to give to the waiting musicians. You're dropped into the centre of each world, and unlike other virtual reality experiences, you're unable to move beyond turning your head on a swivel, like some weird voyeur of Mario's latest adventures. 

Extended reading

The good thing is that it feels awesome just being inside Super Mario Odyssey. It still looks good in VR, with that added depth and immersion that only VR can bring. However, it's when you start moving Mario about that the enjoyment factor starts deteriorating. Mario regularly strays far from the camera, meaning he's just a blobby low-res version of himself, to the point he looks like he doesn't have a moustache. Gasp. 

There's some gentle platforming to do, areas to explore and puzzles to solve to find each instrument. They're not tricky, but controlling Mario from this perspective definitely is. He's awkward, scenery gets in the way, and the whole thing is so low res and is only running at 30fps, so almost instantly makes you feel a bit queasy. It doesn't help that you're having to hold the Switch to your face the entire time. The Labo VR goggles don't come with a headband after all, so you have to play Odyssey and Breath of the Wild by using the controllers attached to the Switch that's inside the VR headset. Not easy for a game that prides itself on precision moves and motion controls. 

Vom of the Wild

And then there's Zelda. Again, it's played by holding the entire Switch console to your face inside the Labo VR goggles, but the new VR mode basically lets you experience the entire game in VR. Now, before you get too excited, although that sounds like an utterly awesome experience, the reality is far from game changing. That's because the game itself hasn't changed at all. Apart from a few UI tweaks, it's exactly the same game, control scheme, camera angles et al. The default VR camera is the same fixed angle option from the main game, so it just feels like you're holding the Switch really close to your face – which is basically what you're doing anyway. There is a very limited motion controlled camera option, but it's disappointing, and offers you only a small range of view around Link, where he always stays in frame, rather than free camera rein. Because the game runs at 30fps, the game feels like it's never as fluid movement as you'd hope, and constantly makes you feel really freaking weird and hella nauseous. 

The fact that you're splitting the Switch's 720p HD screen in half for it to render the VR image meant that it was never going to be the high-res glorious thing that you've experienced with Zelda thus far. To put it into perspective, the PlayStation VR offers a resolution of 1920×1080 (960×1080 per eye), so you're looking at a significant step down in quality using the Switch, which works out at 1280x720 (640x720 per eye). That means what you end up with is a game that feels blurry, and you can actually see the on-screen pixels. It's really not a great virtual reality experience at all. 

" I thought Zelda in virtual reality might be the one experience that tempted people to dive into Labo VR"

It's such a disappointment, especially as I thought Zelda in virtual reality might be the one experience that tempted people to dive into Labo VR. Nintendo's cardboard-themed virtual reality offering really is rather brilliant, but when you're showcasing it with something like Breath of the Wild, it's not exactly a system seller. The game's mode is one that obviously hasn't been properly optimised for VR beyond splitting the screen in two and running the game for each eye. 

The TL;DR version of all of this is that if you were planning on buying the Labo VR Starter Kit – which retails at $39.99 / £34.99 – just so you can experience Zelda VR, then I really would advise not bothering. Both the VR modes for Odyssey and Zelda are free updates, so if you do want to try it for yourself, and already have Labo VR, go ahead. Just prepare yourself for some serious headaches. 

Looking for something new to play? Check out our list of the 25 best Nintendo Switch games you can buy right now.